This German Sub was patrolling the South coast of Ireland and was reportedly mined by a torpedo some 20 miles off the Fastnet Rock.
Having been built
over a nine month period at the Vegesacker-Werft in Bremen, she was commissioned in
March 1942 and started her service when the “wolf pack” days of large kill
ratios were almost over. She measured 67.1 by 6.2 metres and displaced a total
of 1070 tons. Fitted with 4 bow tubes and one at the stern, her class was the
workhorse of the Kriegsmarine U-boat fleet and 568 were commissioned in all.
U-260, however, did not seem to share in the bounty, with only one sinking to
her credit, the 4,900 ton British freighter Empire Wagtail, during the deployment of wolf packs “Spitz” & “Ungestum” against
convoy ONS-154 between 26th and 30th December 1942. Of
the 45 ships in the convoy, 14 were sunk totalling 67437 tons and one was
Mysteriously she disappears from records thereafter and may have been assigned intelligence duties. She
served in nine patrols in all but there are large gaps in her deployment that
may indicate other tasking. Letters from one crewman tell of operations against
various allied ports presumable to gain intelligence on convoy arrival/departure
dates and general harassment of shipping. This may give an insight into why she
was so close inshore to West Cork early in March 1945. U-boats were a
recognised means of slipping agents ashore and a boat with a captain adroit in
covert operations tends to draw these assignments repeatedly. But why so late
in a war that Germany knew it was going to lose?
The crew were engaged in normal
operations when a massive crash was felt through out the boat. Captain
Claus Becker believed he had hit a mine and once he had clawed his boat to the
surface reported this to U-Boat Command. Torpedoes are still visible in a few
of the bow tubes and yet there were no secondary detonations when the mine in
the official report destroyed the bow? The position he gave was 15 miles south
from her resting place today some miles east of the Fastnet Lighthouse.
Unknown to the hydrographers of the day, a pinnacle of rock rises to within 15 metres of the
surface about 200 metres SSE of the U-260. Now known as ’78 rock, it was an
unfortunate omission which provides a more plausible explanation for the boats
loss. If the boat was engaged in secret operations, the last thing Captain
Becker wanted to do would be to compromise future opportunities and existing
Monday evening, March 12th, 1945 was a fine night, with a slight haze,
calm sea and a light southerly wind. When the crew abandoned their boat in
small 8 man rubber dinghies, some of which were over loaded, the flood tied swept
them east. 11 men eventually made landfall on Galley Head and contacted the
lighthouse keeper who alerted the military barracks in Cork. At 0510 hrs the
Courtmacsherry Lifeboat, “Sarah Ward and William David Crosweller” launched and picked
up a further 37 crew about five miles west of Galley Head. What was immediately
apparent to the rescuers was that the crew was split into two distinct groups.
At first this gave rise to speculation that there were two submarines but no other evidence was ever
found. In an unbelievable departure from operational procedure, secret papers,
that should have been destroyed, were recovered floating in a sealed container.
These included code books, orders and the Captain’s personal log, which had been
reported destroyed to the Kriegsmarine High Command. These documents are now in
the military archives in Dublin.
The crew were interned and eventually found themselves
transferred to the “Curragh” where they remained
from April until the beginning of October when they were repatriated.
The wreck was lost and forgotten because the official report stated that the boat was mined 15 miles
south of its present position. The wreck
was rediscovered by accident when a fisherman snagged his nets in the area and
asked a diving friend to investigate. At only 67 metres long by 6
metres wide she is possible to circumnavigate in one dive. However there are so
many interesting areas to explore a number of dives are need before you can
claim you have done the U-260.
The first area most divers want to visit is
the conning tower. The cladding of the tower and the ‘Wintergarten’ have fallen
away exposing a rounded hump that houses the outer chamber. The open hatch
gives entry to the control room. The main attack periscope just behind the
hatch is retracted but the skyscope and DF aerial loop are clearly visible. The
periscope lens is kept clean by the hands of every diver who reach out to touch
the essence of the U-260. Towards the bow four watertight lockers are visible.
These were used to store rubber dinghies and other kit that would be needed on
deck in a hurry. The bow is truncated where the torpedo tubes enter the
pressure hull leaving a jumble of tubes and metal scattered on the seabed. Just
in front of the conning tower is the folded Walter snorkel. This innovation
allowed the vessel to run on her diesel engines whilst submerged and was
retrofitted to the boat in August 1944 prior to her eighth patrol. Immediately
behind the conning tower you come across the air vents for the accommodation and
The aft gun pedestal stands all alone in the vast expanse of the rear deck that tapers off to the impressive
twin screws and hydro planes at the stern. Here, tucked away so that most
divers miss it, nestles the stern tube. Situated behind a concave plate, that
hinged aside when needed, lies U-260’s sting in the tail. There are a few holes
in the plating around the stern that are now inhabited by large congers, so
watch where you put your hands!
The U-260 continues to fascinate everyone who
comes into contact with her.